The Young Men’s Ultimate Weekend was cofounded by Dr. Mark Schillinger, DC and Steven Smulewitz in 2000. Mark was inspired by Brad Leslie who started a weekend mentoring program for young men in Vancouver, Canada in 1990. Mark took his son to this program and when he returned he knew he needed help raising his son as a single-parent.
He put out a call for help in the Bay Area and with the commitment and cooperation of dozens of caring mothers, fathers, and mentors the YMUW 501(c)3 Public Benefit Corporation was established.
We Were Overwhelmed at the First Ultimate Weekend
At our first Young Men’s Ultimate Weekend in Fairfax, California, over 200 young men showed up to receive their initiation. Expecting possibly a few dozen young men, that experience turned out to be an initiation for the board members and their volunteer mentors as well! Since that event, YMUW initiations have been held in Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Sonoma, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.
As of 2017, YMUW has produced approximately 50 initiation events, graduating approximately 2500 young men!
YMUW Provides Community Service
Over the years YMUW has helped other organizations who’ve been in need of our services. The following is a partial list of places where our efforts were used: Pine Ridge Indian Reservation (South Dakota), Marin Women’s Hall of Fame, California Youth Authority, Glide Memorial Church and Operation Elf.
In 2012 YMUW was one of 25 organizations selected to participate in the first International Rite of Passage Council, founded by Frederick Marx.
Our services and events have been featured throughout the media. Each article has practical information, inspiring stories or inviting images about our experiences with young men and their families.
To show parents and their sons how to develop more caring and cooperative relationships by providing programs that teach everyone how to respect each other’s needs and nurture more trust so that parents enjoy more love and young men are better prepared for a life of happiness and independence.
We see households and communities where everyone enjoys respectful and resourceful relationships, which becomes the foundation for global peace and prosperity. We envision a world where all young men are held in high regard and adult’s model the values they know young men need in order to realize their true potential.
The Purpose of the Weekend
To provide young men with a weekend filled with incredible fun and challenges, while building a foundation for a confident and successful adulthood, through learning the importance of teamwork, developing a sense of accomplishment and acquiring leadership skills.
What is Initiation?
In the best of circumstances, every adolescent male faces a vast array of stressful changes: new relationships, greater expectations from family and community, a rapidly changing body, the need to communicate clearly and an uncertain future simmering in a stew of testosterone. He faces the formidable foes of alcohol, drugs, gang violence, anxiety and depression.
All of these challenges often occur in the absence of a full-time father or a father figure. Is it any wonder that studies state many young men, regardless of socioeconomic background, feel sadness and even fear at the prospect of becoming adults? Research shows that adolescence is a critical stage for a young man’s future success and happiness. Unfortunately, most young men are not being mentored and are being misguided by their friends and the media.
The Young Men’s Ultimate Weekend directly addresses the root cause of these problems: the lack of initiation and mentoring. We’ve helped over two thousand young men become respectable and responsible for themselves and for others. Our graduates leave the YMUW more accountable for their lives and better prepared for the challenges of the adult world.
Why Young Men Need an Initiation
For thousands of years, cultures gave young men the right learning experiences to learn how to handle the wins and losses of life and how to fulfill their potential. At a formal initiation, they were guided by adult men of integrity who showed them how to become confident and independent. The women and children supported the men and eagerly anticipated the completion of this milestone episode.This time-honored activity fulfills the most fundamental need of a young man: to know his rightful place in the universe and his community. Through this realization a young man knows that he is a unique and special creation who is responsible for the safety and well-being of his community.
Societal reverence for this inherent role was a powerful source of identity, self-respect and direction for young men. Without the training and esteem of the community for acting in this gallant, protective capacity, young men can become apathetic and confused. It is the responsibility of the community to give young men the opportunity to be at peace with themselves and the world around them.
The young men who attend our Weekend come from diverse socioeconomic, racial and cultural backgrounds. We do not inquire about their sexual orientation. We are non-sectarian; we do not espouse any institutional religion. More than 50% of the youth attending the YMUW originate from divorced homes, however, our program is intended for all young men, ages 13-20.